J. Gibson McIlvain has a long legacy of sourcing quality hardwood lumber, but in recent years we’ve also expanded into other markets to better serve the needs of our customers. We’ve ventured into the arenas of millwork and decking as well as softwoods. Many people may not realize that we also carry plywood. Even though run-of-the-mill plywood is readily available from a variety of sources, we realized that many of our distinguished customers were having trouble sourcing quality sheets. And a lot of what makes up a quality sheet of plywood boils down to the core.
Hardwood Plywood Core Types: MDF AND PARTICLE BOARD CORE
Under this heading, we’ll look at 2 distinct types of plywood; however, we’re lumping them together since both MDF and particle board are composite substances; as such, they’re made up of wood particles that are glued together to create a flat, consistent substrate that’s dimensionally uniform. As such, they are going to be more stable as well as heavier than plywood with a solid wood core.
MDF, in particular, is basically made from sawdust, creating a highly stable but also very heavy, millable substrate with extremely strong edges. By contrast, particle board is made using larger pieces of wood; as a result, it will be lighter weight than MDF and have weaker edges that can splinter more easily.
Neither option would be the best if you’re looking for premium screw-holding ability; however, some fastener designs can help compensate for that deficiency. As long as you choose wide-thread screws designed for use with particle board or MDF, you won’t have to worry about screw-holding ability. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we do not currently carry particle board products, but we do offer plywood with an MDF core.
Hardwood Plywood Core Types: LUMBER CORE PLYWOOD
Lumber core plywood is made from thick strips of Basswood or other species of hardwood glued together to create a panel, with two face veneers added — one cross grain. The effect is a well-supported core and camouflage of individual boards in the core, as you look at the face. Instead of thin veneers, each individual batten in the core is thicker — typically accounting for approximately 66 percent of the thickness of the panel. Compared to other types of plywood, lumber core plywood offers stiffness that’s important for longer lengths. Often used for bookcases and other types of shelving as well as for various types of furniture, this option allows for routed edges when they can’t be concealed.
To learn more about how the various plywood cores compare to one another, be sure to check out Part 2.